Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-6-28

6/28/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Top of the 1st
TIME TO RETIRE
It’s time for Roger Clemens to retire. Not a trumped-up, phony farewell. Not a “oh, please Roger come back” moment. It’s time for Roger Clemens to retire…for real.

I don’t say this with enmity; Clemens is the greatest pitcher of the last twenty years and one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball. He is a lock first-ballot Hall of Famer and it has been thrilling to watch him. To be honest, I say it with disappointment and sadness. I truly hoped that Clemens would return to the Yankees and show his greatness and inspire and lead the Yankees to make it a race in the AL East. A runaway victory by either the Red Sox or the Yankees in the division feels hollow,

Roger Clemens should retire because he is not Roger Clemens anymore; he is an ordinary number four or five starter. The fact that he can still pitch better than at least 50% of the starters in the majors is simply a reflection of how miserable so many starters are and the vast difference in talent that Roger once exhibited that he can lose so much and yet still be competitive.

And he has lost a lot. In the game last night between the Orioles and Yankees, one pitcher threw 93 pitches in six innings giving up seven hits, three walks, one three-run homer, a total of four runs and didn’t strike out anybody. The other pitcher threw 108 pitches in seven innings, giving up two hits, one walk, no runs, while striking out eight. I guess I don’t need to tell you that the latter pitcher was Eric Bedard, who was five years old when Clemens made his first start, and is now the quality pitcher that Clemens once was.

Clemens has always been the best against the best. He would do what Bedard did last night meaning striking out Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada twice each. Clemens, on the other hand, gave up a three-run homer to Aubrey Huff, his first since May 9, a total of 143 at-bats.

It’s not just this one game that leads me to this call. It’s not the fact that Clemens didn’t record a strikeout for the first time in 201 starts. The last time he hadn’t struck out a batter was June 14, 2000 when he left a game with a groin injury after one inning. More significantly the last time he went at least six innings with no strikeouts was on July 21, 1987, for Boston, when he shut out the Angels on five hits. What it comes down to is the reality that Clemens is 1-3 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts and five appearances and that his record is reflective of his pitching. He is barely breaking 90 on the speed gun and Clemens is a power pitcher. His splitters are too often breaking low and inside, right in the wheel-house of left-handed batters, and they are not fooling anyone.

From his first start against the Pirates, he has been falling behind batters and clearly the strategy for opposing teams is to make him throw a lot of pitches, and make him throw the ball over the plate. He is and they are hitting him. It may take a few innings, he threw five shutout innings last night, but now it is only a matter of time before he is the one who breaks down. He told reporters after the game, “You could see how the game was breaking down,” Clemens said. “I’ve been in hundreds of those types of games and you just want to stay away from the big inning.” He didn’t.

Clemens has been in 696 major league games all told and thrown 4,841.1 big league innings and I hope that he knows that it is time. Mike Schmidt knew it was time. It was the end of May in 1989 when Schmidt, perhaps baseball’s greatest third baseman, retired. At 39, he was hitting .203 with six homers when his golden glove started to fail him. Schmidt’s glove was to him like the splitter is to Clemens.

”Over the years, I’ve set high standards for myself as a player, and I always said that when I couldn’t live up to those standards I would retire,” Schmidt said when he announced his retirement on May 29, 1989. ”I no longer have the skills needed to make adjustments at the plate to hit or to make some plays in the field and run the bases.

”I feel like I could ask the Phillies to keep me on to add to my statistics, but my love for the game won’t let me do that.”

Clemens has an opportunity to show his love for the game and his legacy is greater than his love for money. I hope that Roger Clemens can pick up one more win to become the first pitcher since Warren Spahn in 1963 to reach 350 wins. He won’t catch Kid Nichols who is in 7th place with 361 wins and he probably won’t hold off Greg Maddux who is in 10th place with 340 wins. But what does it matter?

The Yankees’ investment of about $17.4 million in salary for four months of Clemens is helping neither party. The Yankees are 7-8 since Clemens beat the Pirates in his debut on June 9. Clemens should speak to George Steinbrenner who he has remained very close, speak to Joe Torre, speak to his close friend Andy Pettitte and team captain Derek Jeter and tell them all his plans. Tell them that he wants to leave with dignity and the respect that he and the team deserve. Tell them he is not walking out on the team, he is simply not delivering on the promise he made in May when he claimed he could still pitch at Roger Clemens level. Tell them he wants to get number 350 and that he wants to go home and wait for the call from the Hall of Fame.

The Rocket has burnt out his fuse.

Top of the 2nd
A MARINERS SWEEP
Jose Lopez doubled just out of the reach of Manny Ramirez and off the left-field wall to drive home the winning run as the Mariners topped the Red Sox, 2-1 in 11 innings. It was Seattle’s fifth straight win. Seattle swept Boston in a three-game series at home for the second time in 10 months. The Mariners blanked the Red Sox in August 2006, at the time it was Seattle’s first three-game sweep over Boston since 1989.

Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched brilliantly over the first eight innings allowing only three hits and one run. Both bullpens pitched in and out of jams before the M’s got to former teammate Joel Pinata. This was only the second time all season the Red Sox have been swept and the previous time was in a two-game set with Toronto.

Seattle’s starting pitchers failed to last six innings in any of the three games.

The Mariners trail the first place Angles by just three in the loss column.

Top of the 3rd
A ROYALS SWEEP
Jorge De La Rosa won for the first time since May 13, as the Royals defeated Jared Weaver and the Angels, 1-0. The Angels have lost five in a row to the Royals and dropped the season series to them, 5-2. Kansas City has won four straight for the first time since July 4-7 last year and at 14-11 is assured of a winning month for the first time since July 2003 (15-11). The Royals had not blanked an opponent since Sept. 5 against the New York Yankees.

Los Angeles, shut out for the fourth time this season, had 10 hits but didn’t advance a runner past second, stranding six and hitting into two double plays.

The Royals trail the White Sox in the standings now by just a game and a half.

Top of the 4th
A CUBS SWEEP
The Chicago Cubs topped the Colorado Rockies 6-4 to extend their winning streak to six games. It’s their longest winning streak since they won seven straight May 27-June 2, 2005.

The Rockies have now lost sixth straight game having been swept by the Blue Jays and the Cubs. It’s Colorado’s first six-game losing streak since last August. The Rockies had won 20 of 27 prior to this slump.

The Cubs are now in second place, one game under .500 and face the first place Brewers this weekend who they trail by 7.5.

Cubs manager Lou Pinella was clearly pleased with the happy ending to this game, “Winning is like a massage,” Piniella told reporters after the game. “It’s like a relaxer. You start playing with more confidence.”

Top of the 5th
JONES VS. LUGO
Andruw Jones in June is 7 for 91, a batting average of .132.
Julio Lugo in June is 7 for 77, a batting average of .091.

Top of the 6th
GLAVINE IS THE RAIN MAN
Tommy Glavine waited as the rain pelted down at Shea Stadium and then pitched six shutout innings over the Cardinals before the game was called with Mets winning, 2-0. It was Glavine’s 297th win.

Anthony Reyes took the loss for the Cardinals and is now 0-10 on the season making him a Billy-Ball-Star.

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians, 12:05 pm
(R) Joe Blanton (7-4) vs. (R) Paul Byrd (6-3)
Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers, 1:05 pm
(R) Kevin Millwood (4-6) vs. (L) Kenny Rogers (1-0)
Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins, 1:10 pm
(R) AJ Burnett (5-6) vs. (R) Carlos Silva (5-8)
New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles, 7:05 pm
(R) Chien-Ming Wang (7-4) vs. (R) Daniel Cabrera (6-8)
Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 7:10 pm
(R) Javier Vazquez (3-5) vs. (L) Scott Kazmir (5-3)
NL
Pittsburgh Pirates at Florida Marlins, 12:05 pm
(L) Zach Duke (3-6) vs. (L) Scott Olsen (5-6)
Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks, 6:40 pm
(L) Randy Wolf (8-6) vs. (L) Randy Johnson (4-2)
Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies, 7:05 pm
(R) Matt Belisle (5-5) vs. (R) Adam Eaton (7-5)
St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets, 7:10 pm
(R) Adam Wainwright (6-6) vs. (R) Orlando Hernandez (3-3)
Colorado Rockies at Houston Astros, 8:05 pm
(R) Aaron Cook (4-5) vs. (R) Roy Oswalt (7-5)

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
There were six forty-year old pitchers throwing yesterday. Clemens lost; Glavine won, so did Greg Maddux (#340), and John Smoltz. Wood Williams and Jaime Moyer had no decisions.

It was the first time Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz won on the same day.

Top of the 9th
MADDUX
The Padres and Greg Maddux defeated the Giants and Matt Cain yesterday, 4-2. The 42-year old Maddux was masterful throwing with Wiffle ball speed and acumen for frustrating the Giants for seven innings, giving up five hits and just one run, Pedro Feliz’ second-inning home run. Matt Cain took the loss and his record fell to 2-9 but his ERA fell too, to 3.38.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.